Legal cannabis enjoyed a very successful year as we burned, wheezed and isolated ourselves through wildfires, a circus disguised as an election and an ongoing pandemic, so I'm not the only one who got closer to my weed jar in 2020. And if I'm going to be forced to watch the equivalent of a ten-month-long Human Centipede marathon on the news, then I might as well bring my strain gang with me.
It's safe to say I've never tried more varieties of cannabis in one calendar year out of stress and boredom, and some certainly stood out more than others. In no particular order, here are ten of the best cannabis strains I had the pleasure to puff in 2020:
Cheetah Piss was named in honor of Cat Piss, an energetic, ammonia-smelling strain from the 2000s that became popular at medical dispensaries on the West Coast. As tokers got more stinky options, though, strains smelling (and named) like Cat Piss faded away. But I've always appreciated the sour, fume-like complexities of Cat Piss, and viewed it as a way to identify real potheads. Seeing a breeder like Cookies, which is largely responsible for the current Cake and Pie strain fad at dispensaries, embrace those qualities with Cheetah Piss gives me hope that we'll see more returns to the past.
Don't expect Cheetah Piss to deliver a high similar to that of its predecessor, though. The strain's Lemonnade, Gelato and London Poundcake genetics are more apt for relaxation than the racy effects of Cat Piss, a phenotype of Super Silver Haze. However, there are cannabis varieties labeled Cat Piss with Afghani and Trainwreck backgrounds, so it's not the first time a talented breeder has re-created buds that tinge the nostrils like a new bottle of Sex Panther.
If I can't have runt-sized watermelon slices for breakfast, I'll take sticky, purple nugs named Trix as a consolation. The weed world's knockoff attempt on my long-lost breakfast shapes — a hybrid of Chemdog D and Colombian Gold from Riot Seeds — succeeds at quieting some of those cravings while proving that Cookies strains aren't the only ones that create a flavor fresh out of the oven.
Trix's flavors almost smell baked into the weed, as dumb as that sounds, but with biscuity aromas backing up those berry scents, you'll understand what I mean as your pupils turn into every fruit on the slot machine. The strain's morning implications are confirmed by an upbeat high that enables conversation and enough focus to get by, though a 20 percent THC potency can create a thin line between semi-high task-finisher and stoned dilly-dallier. A cup of coffee is usually enough to snap me out of it, but I've seen Trix turn novices into dried-out mutes, so don't get lost in the cereal box.
Citral Flo smells, looks and smokes like some of that classic pre-legalization mystery dank — only we know what it is. A cross of Sour Flo and Citral Skunk, Citral Flo’s throwback smell and flavor are almost like going back to a hometown hangout. It doesn’t take long to trace the strain back to Flo, Citral, Skunk, Sour Diesel and OG Kush on the family tree, and those genetics combine for a beautiful blend of Eastern and Western cannabis varieties. Thick, chalky flavors of Hindu Kush; rubbery, gassy hints of Diesel; heavy fumes of Skunk and a twist of citrus cooperate instead of clash, creating a smell that’s textbook sticky icky.
Citral Flo’s high tends to lean old-school, too, and can make users anxious if too much is toked. Smoking a joint of it made me feel like a youngster on his first blunt: My tongue felt like sandpaper, and my sense of time and concentration was disoriented. However, sessions of the strain before a late February bike ride or during mountain visits gave me a warming energy without the side effect of overthinking, making it great for quick decision-making during outdoor activity.
I couldn't help but smile as fumes of tires, strawberries and Altoids splashed across my face when I took a chance on Strawberry OG, a hybrid of Bruce Banner #3 and SFV OG. Conjuring memories of blunts rolled with strawberry-flavored Swisher Sweets and Phillies, Strawberry OG's smell encapsulated some of my formative toking years in a way I hadn't previously experienced.
Most of the strawberry-leaning strains I'd had were either sickly-sweet or balanced with Diesel characteristics. Strawberry OG, however, carried fresh kicks of mint and pine on top of those fruity notes, as if I were pairing a skunky joint of chronic with a strawberry mojito. Such a fresh, interesting combination was like discovering a new drink at happy hour, and I worried the high would play out similarly: fun and fast-paced at first, then spiraling downward into a headache and a $30 Uber Eats delivery before a 9 o'clock bedtime. But I was pleasantly surprised with the clarity and creativity Strawberry OG left me, even after several heavy doses that melted my limbs. If that's not the best way to enjoy strawberries in the winter, I don't know what is.
A cross of Animal Cookies and Sour Apple by Lumpy's Flowers in northern California, Apple Fritter represents a true clash of the titans in the world of cannabis genetics. In one corner you have Animal Cookies, born from Fire OG and Girl Scout Cookies and carrying several OG-leaning qualities in flavor and effects. In the other is Sour Apple, a product of Cinderella 99 and Sour Diesel — a quintessential energy strain. Breeding those lineages together sounds like mixing a bulldog with a border collie, and I'm all for it.
Not all opposites spark something magical after they attract, but this hybrid is a home run. The heavy OG and uplifting citrus qualities are seamlessly connected by sweet, cheesy notes, which add more variety and balance to the flavor — and could reflect how Apple Fritter's effects achieve a similar harmony, giving me something a little more calming than a 50/50 ratio but still capable and alert enough to handle the day. Smoking Apple Fritter throughout the day eventually wound me down to a halt, however, and gave me the appetite of a pre-hibernation grizzly bear.
Whether you want to grow them or not, Cookies strains (and all of the Cakes and Pies they quickly spawned) are what the people want. So it was only a matter of time before I ran into a Cookies descendant named Lava Cake, a mix of Thin Mints and Grape Pie.
Lava Cake's background and availability don't come close to paralleling its namesake dessert. Despite being bred in Colorado by Cannarado Genetics, Lava Cake is a rare find in dispensaries, and even rarer in flower form — not that Lava Cake live resin isn't a great way to enjoy the strain's sweet, buttery flavor and spine-melting high. I quickly learned that enjoying Lava Cake any time before dinner was akin to eating a sinful dessert before my vegetables, making me too lazy to be an adult within two hours. Waiting for Lava Cake until right before a post-dinner movie was perfect, though, and two bowls kept me interested, elated and curious before my eyes slowly cemented shut.
I'm not recommending that operators of deadly machinery light up before they turn on a hay grinder or drive a tractor (I don't think I can recommend that, legally), but Citrus Farmer, a potent hybrid from northern California, is good for a quick puff of second wind when the dangerous work is done. It's good for a huff of second wind, too, because the punch of wet earth and squeezed citrus that each bud emits qualifies as doldrums aromatherapy. In fact, I enjoyed my first frisky run with Citrus Farmer so much that I then bought an ounce of it, but quickly found out that dipping into the jar throughout the day led to the foggiest brain I've had in weeks. Forget about trying to remember what day it is: I couldn't even remember which toothbrush was mine. Honestly, I'm proud of myself for having the drive to even try.
As with any long-term relationship — and that's what buying an ounce is, for most of us — figuring out my expectations and pace with Citrus Farmer helped me find the balance I needed. While that fresh-squeezed smell of orange or grapefruit juice can be enjoyed and even beneficial in the morning, an extra glass of sugar and acid gets internally disruptive as we get older. I'm consistently two steps behind if I smoke Citrus Farmer all day, but one step blissfully ahead if I keep it limited to one bowl mid- to late morning.
I was never a fan of banana splits as a dessert, since they lacked a desirable texture and were usually covered in fake syrups. But the strain, a hybrid of Tangie and Banana Sherbet, trends much more fruity and sour, packing intense aromas of citrus and melon that are sweeter than the savory, custard notes of a banana. Unless I'm missing something in between the fruit salad and final notes of pine and rubber in Banana Split, those creamy banana characteristics never take hold — and I'm totally fine with that. Bananas are overrated.
Such sharp, fruity flavors usually mean I'm in for an active high, but this strain supplied quite the opposite, sparking my mind but canceling all bodily motivation. After smoking a physically tranquilizing joint of Banana Split that tasted nothing like bananas and watching the characters of my favorite ’60s variety show kill people with lollipops, I realized these two odd interpretations were made for each other.
Known for being one of the most affluent communities not just in Colorado, but the entire country, Cherry Hills Village has been home to John Elway, Peyton Manning, Joe Sakic, Ethel Merman and Mike Shanahan, as well as numerous politicians. Cherry Hills is also the name of an extremely purple strain of weed grown in Colorado. Both are intimidating to anyone lacking confidence, but at least the weed strain is within most of our means.
A cross of Appalachia, Cherry Pie and Grand Daddy Purple, Cherry Hills was bred by ThugPug Genetics, which may have created one of the most purple strains I’ve ever seen. I’m not usually one for pure violet darkness covering my buds, but there’s no denying how striking a quarter-pound of Cherry Hills looks when you’re perusing dispensary display jars. Beginning tokers should keep their eyes out for that purple jar, because Cherry Hills has a comfortable yet euphoric high that rarely leads to freakouts. Most cuts are light on the THC, with just enough of a CBD presence to provide potential medical benefits — or a calmer mind, at the very least. Daily users might find the high a little weak, but a hash garnish or mixing Cherry Hills with a more potent nighttime strain provides a solid nightcap, and the light high is great for medical users trying to ease their stomachs or joints without a stoned mind.
Smoking a bowl of Kush Mints won’t leave your mouth feeling minty-fresh and clean: The potent mix of Animal Mints and Bubba Kush carries stiff notes of pine, wood, graham cracker and Skunk with a blast of wintergreen at the end, a chemical reaction that will out any idiot foolish enough to keep this in a simple bag or plastic jar. Kush Mints needs to be tightly sealed, or your cover is blown.
I was sold on Kush Mints bringing a balanced high, but I found it much more relaxing than described. The strain’s tendency to melt stress adds to the already soothing body effects, so any sessions with Kush Mints after 7 p.m. is likely to put you down within a few hours. I shouldn’t have been surprised: Bubba Kush has always dropped me like a kick to the groin, and Cookies strains do the same.
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